The Chancellor is scaring the horses up in Brum with his ‘hard truths’ speech on the economy. Meanwhile, the troops in Westminster have that ‘back to school’ feeling.

Mr Steerpike has been asking Conservative MPs, ranging from loyalists to rebels and from old timers to young scamps, for their New Year predictions. Many of the answers followed a similar theme. ‘UKIP will wipe the floor with everyone in the European elections, followed by a wide ranging ministerial reshuffle which doesn’t include me afterwards,’ said one noisy backbencher. This feeling was echoed by one junior government figure: ‘Big changes to Cabinet in early spring, poll lead by mid-year and minority Tory government by end of 2014.’

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Which ministers are up and which are down? ‘Harper, Hancock, Truss, Fallon, Hands, McVey. Out: Young, Pickles, Paterson, Villiers, Miller, McLoughlin,’ said one canny soothsayer. The prospect of a reshuffle along those lines does not appeal to everyone: ‘Cabinet reshuffle. Matt Hancock in, which will piss off the entire backbench and be seen as “jobs for the boys!”’

Away from the transfer gossip, one loyalist MP made mischief: ‘A Labour shadow minister will have to step down as a result of a fall out from the Co-Op.’ Others, though, were still dreaming of the political equivalent of a White Christmas: ‘Vince Cable will be sacked, but I feel this is me being optimistic.’ Happy New Year.

Tags: Conservatives, George Osborne, Matt Hancock